Salty fans, hot Yankees greet Astros in return to Bronx

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·5 min read
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NEW YORK — Boos and bad words streamed loudly from the seats in the Houston Astros' return to Yankee Stadium, and New York got a homer and four hits from Giancarlo Stanton to sate those spiteful fans with a 7-3 victory Tuesday night.

In Houston's first visit to the Bronx since their sign-stealing scam was exposed, an error by Astros third baseman Alex Bregman in the sixth inning let New York blow the game open.

A pandemic-limited, sellout crowd of 10,850 skipped subtle barbs for salty language, aimed especially at 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve. Several brought signs insulting the Astros, and security confiscated multiple inflatable trash cans.

Bregman homered in the first inning to momentarily hush those haters, but his miscue in the sixth with the game tied 3-3 doomed Houston.

He barehanded DJ LeMahieu's bases-loaded slow roller but skipped his throw past first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Three runs scored on the play, the last Rougned Odor, whose left knee slammed into catcher Martín Maldonado's head as he reached the plate. Odor appeared to be trying to avoid LeMahieu’s bat, which was lying in the right-handed batter’s box.

LeMahieu was credited with a single and an RBI, and one of the runs was unearned. Stanton made it 7-3 when he scored LeMahieu with a single.

The Yankees have won 9 of 12 and improved to 15-14, their first time over .500 since they were 3-2. Lucas Luetge (2-0) pitched a scoreless sixth and was credited with the win.

Brandon Bielak (1-1) took the loss.

New York players and coaches downplayed any lingering bitterness toward Houston ahead of this series, but their supporters in the pandemic-limited crowd of 10,850 had no such filter.

A Major League Baseball investigation confirmed the Astros stole signs en route to a 2017 World Series title — they beat New York in a seven-game AL Championship Series on the way. Manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired in the fallout. Hinch, now managing the Tigers, heard a few boos in his return to Yankee Stadium over the weekend.

Astros players, though, were granted immunity during the probe — a decision that peeved players and fans alike when it was handed down in January 2020.

Before the game, vendors outside the stadium sold merchandise mocking the Astros, including profane shirts and foam fingers — one digit raised, not the pointer. Fans gathered near the visiting dugout to boo Houston during batting practice, the harshest jeers saved for Altuve, who edged Yankees star Aaron Judge for AL MVP in 2017.

The vitriol intensified when Houston's lineup was introduced, focused on the four lineup regulars remaining from 2017 — Altuve, Bregman, Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa.

Altuve was met by thunderous boos when he led off the first. They persisted throughout the inning — pausing only for a beat after Bregman hit a two-out, solo homer. Fans were chanting a profane insult at Bregman when he connected.

Bregman mostly held his emotions as he rounded the bases but let out a primal scream in the dugout.

The Yankees counterpunched in the bottom of the first, getting three runs during a 31-pitch inning by Zack Greinke. Stanton hit a towering two-run homer off a 71.7 mph curve — the slowest pitch he's homered against in his career — as the first five New York batters reached.

Stanton added a 117.4 mph double in the fifth and had singles in the sixth and eighth innings, stretching his hitting streak to 10 games. He drove in three and lifted his average to .297.

Greinke was pulled after allowing three runs, three hits and four walks in four innings. It was his first game with four free passes since Game 4 of the 2019 ALCS at Yankee Stadium. He struck out four.

Michael Brantley also homered for Houston, and Gurriel hit an RBI double that bounced off the top of the left-field wall.

Altuve was 0 for 4, extending his slump to 1 for 24. Correa was also 0 for 4, making the game's final out with a drive to left- centre caught on the warning track.

HARD HITS

Odor and Maldonado were helped off the field by trainers after their collision at home plate. Odor struggled to put weight on his left leg. Both were removed from the game.

The Yankees said Odor would get an MRI on his left knee Tuesday night.

Houston said Maldonado has a trapezius contusion and no concussion symptoms. He’s day to day.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Astros: LHP Framber Valdez (broken left finger) is well ahead of schedule in his recovery and has resumed throwing off a mound. Manager Dusty Baker said he'll need reps akin to a full spring training to get his arm back in shape. The club doesn't have an expected return date yet.

Yankees: 1B Luke Voit (left knee surgery) was 2 for 3 with a double as he began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Manager Aaron Boone expects him to play five or six games there before hopefully joining the big league team next week.

UP NEXT

Yankees LHP Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.39) vs. faces rookie Houston RHP Luis Garcia (0-3, 2.70) in the middle set of a three-game series.

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Jake Seiner, The Associated Press